KAPAA — Potholes, or craters?
Either way, the large divots at the Kealia Beach Park parking lot are the target for some TLC, as the county prepares a resurfacing and grading project for the area beginning Monday.
The $21,000 project will re-do the 58,000-square-foot lot over several phases. It couldn’t come soon enough, said Eastside beach users.
“That would be nice,” said Gino Schaffer of Wailua Homesteads when he learned of the plan at the beach last week. “This is my daily playground.”
Work will start in the center of the parking lot, while later phases will focus on the sides of the lot. Led by the departments of Public Works and Parks and Recreation, the work should wrap up by the end of the calendar year. The limits of the work will be from the Kauai Bus Stop on the Hanalei side to the opposite end, where the boulders block access to the pedestrian bridge over the Kealia River.
Public access will remain open on the sections of the parking lot that aren’t being worked on at the time, said Mary Daubert, Kauai County spokeswoman. But sometimes, it may require users to drive back onto Kuhio Highway before pulling into the other side of the lot.
While the sandy beach north of Kapaa is a popular attraction — it made its way into the blockbuster film “The Descendants” — the parking lot is less than ideal. The potholes require a driver’s careful attention to navigate, and when the huge holes fill with water after a rainstorm, it can seem like driving through a pond. The bumpy driving can be all the more stressful when the lot abuts the heavily used bike and pedestrian path.
While it’s nice that the improvement project is coming, some at Kealia said a long-term solution would be ideal, such as asphalt.
“We need a more permanent solution,” said Kaleo Lopez, a lifeguard who monitors the area almost daily. “They’ve done this place two or three times since I’ve been here, but the officials are afraid that a more permanent solution would create a speeding problem. Maybe they can think of adding speed bumps to control the speeding. Everyone speeds — it doesn’t matter if they’re residents or visitors.”
Monday will mark the first time the lot has been resurfaced since 2008. It will be re-graded with recycled asphalt pavement — considered in the construction world as an environmentally friendly option over new asphalt — but will remain a dirt parking lot.
The project was initiated by county staff who saw the need for a safer driving area, Daubert said, and it had been in the works for several months as county staff secured permits.
“It’ll make this place a lot safer and allow access to more cars,” Micah Loi of Kapaa said at the beach on Friday. Loi added that some people still drive too fast despite the rough conditions. “This is my home beach. … People speed around here, so maybe they need to look at putting in speed bumps.”
Daubert couldn’t provide by Friday the amount of money budgeted for parking lot improvement projects this year, but said that the county is always eyeing what lots need repair work based on need and funding. The parking lot in Hanapepe town was resurfaced earlier this year, while two more projects are on the horizon: the Hanalei Pavilion and Anini Boat Harbor.
“Permits have just been secured to improve these parking lots and we’re looking at starting construction next spring,” she wrote in an email. “These projects will also be done in-house and will require coordination between parks and public works.”
Improvement projects are important, and the county projects out as funding becomes available, she added.
Meanwhile, the lot at Kalapaki suffers from large potholes as well, but it hasn’t been scheduled for improvement yet.
“The Nawiliwili parking lot will be done sometime in the future, but no definite date has been set yet,” she wrote.
Other Kealia users said any improvement there is a welcome sight.
“Anything they can do for this lot helps,” said Wailua resident Sean English. “I’m glad to see them starting to work on clearing the culverts. They need to keep it clear, though, and drain the rest of the parking lot.”
Reporter Tom Hasslinger contributed to this report.